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Art & Design Senior Hosts Inaugural Open Science Café Event

Ali Albiani (left), with Charmaine Martinez and Steve Duenes
Ali Albiani (far right), with Art & Design Department faculty mentor Charmaine Martinez and guest speaker, Steve Duenes, of the New York Times. | Photo: Robert E. Kennedy Library

In true Learn by Doing fashion, Cal Poly seeks new ways to empower students by providing them opportunities to become involved and make a difference. For art and design senior Ali Albiani, Open Science Café was a platform to make a tangible impact on campus.

As winner of the new campuswide competition, Albiani planned the inaugural Open Science Café event. The competition, offered by the Kennedy Library, awards one winning student proposal a $3,000 budget and $500 stipend to bring a speaker of choice to Cal Poly. Open Science Cafe encourages students to be proactive about their time on campus by creating their own college experiences and gaining proficiency in program management in the process.

Developed by Karen Lauritsen, communications and public programs coordinator for Kennedy Library, Open Science Café is an extension of Cal Poly Science Café, both of which provide interactive events for the campus and local community. Lauritsen, together with a panel of judges, selected this year’s winner and served as a mentor to Albiani, who organized and managed the event.

Albiani created an interview video with Duenes and summarized 
the event in a blog post. Read about Albiani’s experience.

Albiani, with assistance from art and design Professor Charmaine Martinez, arranged for The New York Times’ Graphics Director, Steve Duenes, to come to campus. He spoke about his career trajectory, offered tips about his profession, and discussed the future of data visualization and information design.

“I chose to bring him to campus because I liked his collaborative background. He works with such an eccentric and diverse team that has a lot to offer, and I feel we have the same idea here at Cal Poly,” Albiani said. “Whether you’re working with engineers, English majors, journalism students or designers, we all have something to offer to create an end result.”

Grounded in ideas of creativity, interaction and collaboration, Albiani’s event combined a lecture with hands-on activities that allowed attendees to apply what they learned. After Duenes’ talk, audience members were asked to visualize mock data using ideas he had shared. Despite the high-tech topic, participants were given only paper, pencils, markers and Post-its to emphasize the importance of fundamental brainstorming techniques.

“It was really interesting to see how the participants were so creative. I loved the whole collaborative aspect,” Albiani said. “At the end of the day, that’s where you start — with pencil and paper — and it really put into perspective how you would begin.”

Photos from Steve Duenes' talk at the
Open Science Cafe and the audience workshop.

As the first Open Science Café, the library continues a tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration. The event bears testament to Cal Poly’s commitment to Learn by Doing.

“We encouraged students to dream big, to not limit their thinking.” Lauritsen said. “I think that Ali’s project set a really high bar, and of course, I would love for that to continue. She’s been thoughtful and organized. It was a high-quality, creative and interdisciplinary event.”

For Albiani, the key to making a dream a reality is simply hard work and dedication.

“I hope I set a tone of just going with your dream. If you have an idea, go with it, pursue it, and be 

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